When the Minneapolis-based indie folk-poppers We Are The Willows finished recording their latest album Picture (Portrait) in summer 2014, they had no idea what to do with it.
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The choice for members Peter Miller, Jeremiah Satterthwaite, and Travis Collins to release the record themselves under the label The Homestead Records came easily. Like a folksy version of Rhymesayers, they filled administrative roles similar to each bandmate’s typical (non-musical) duties.
“When we tour with We Are The Willows now, Travis is the guy that keeps all the receipts,” Satterthwaite says. In addition to playing guitar and banjo for the band, he handles most of The Homestead Records’ graphic design and audio/video production work, while frontman Miller tackles booking and bassist Collins takes on administrative work for the label.
A year after that initial decision to turn their collective energies into a music label, the trio are presenting The Homestead Records’ One Year Anniversary show at the Turf Club this Saturday, August 29.
Before releasing Picture, The Homestead put out LOTT’s debut single “Parking On The Grass,” a solo project by We Are The Willows violinist Leah Ottman. Since then, THR has delivered albums like The Awful Truth’s Lakewater and Collins’s singer-songwriter debut under the moniker A.M. Stryker. Alongside We Are The Willows, the three acts comprise Homestead’s entire roster, as well as the bill at Anniversary show at the Turf Club.
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“With all this stuff we’ve been doing, we’d love to take this community we have of musicians we love, and do a lot of this work for them, too,” Collins said. Some of The Homestead’s extra efforts as a media outlet include several live music video series set in unexpected places, like the artists’ bedrooms for their At-Home sessions and Five Watt Coffee on Nicollet Avenue—one especially casual video features gentle crooner S. Carey serenading customers quietly on the shop’s organ. “We spitball ideas that just sound like fun to us to do.”
The Homestead Records began as a “Trojan Horse,” as Satterthwaite describes it, just a name to put on the album and “have a platform with which we could contact people when we’re doing the business side of things. Initially, that was all it was going to be,” he said. “It became apparent pretty quickly that we had this fluid idea of what it was going to be as a label.”
In addition to the anniversary show, Homestead plans to release a new Willows record, a sequel to Pictures (Portrait), early next year. Satterthwaite and Collins also hinted that a second issue of THR’s zine, The Homesteader, is on the horizon.
“With the label, we’ve been able to grow into these roles that were based off our natural abilities to start with,” Collins said. “I think we’ve really started to own them, and over the course of the last year it’s been cool to see what that’s developed into.”
Jared Hemming is a senior in professional journalism at the University of Minnesota. He is currently the co-host of Radio K’s local show, Off The Record, and loves covering Twin Cities arts.